As Back to School sales have been in full swing since the 5th of July, it feels like summer is beginning to transition into autumn. We can almost feel the summertime slowness begin to transition into the stress, tension, and frenzy of fall.
My invitation to you this Fall is we take a slice of summer slowness with you into August and September. And I need to follow my own advice!
I recently read two articles in the Minneapolis newspaper, one in Janu-ary, and the other in June on the same theme: one on “The Slow Move-ment” and the other on “Slow Art Day”, an international event on the first Saturday of April each year. “The Slow Movement, once only about food is also about slow travel, slow books, slow cities, slow crafts, slow money, slow coffee.” Canadian Journalist Carl Honoré writes in his book, “In Praise of Slow” these telling words: “Fast is busy, controlling, aggres-sive, hurried, analytical, stressed, superficial, impatient, active, quantity-over-quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity.”
Those last nine words sound awfully contemplative to me. It describes the right brain, affective versus effective experience of life.
Your homework? Something you can discuss in your small groups? For the “rest of the summer” and beyond, practice slowing down, that is, giving your activity full attention at the moment in order to be trained to receive the gift of God’s grace when his grace shows up in your life:
Do slow hobbies:
knitting, painting, woodworking, bird watching, gardening, baking, etc,.
Try slow travel:
stay in one place or do a staycation rather than going on a complicated vacation and getting stressed trying to see too many things.
Slow relationships and parenting:
savor and deepen with your family and friends; take time to “encounter” the other by going on a date night with your spouse or go to a local park and just be.
Sunday is Christian Slow Day par excellence:
practice your slow hobbies on this day which should be filled with contemplative leisure.
Slow Fine Arts (Music, Dance, Visual Arts, Film):
Guess how long the average person spends with beholding one of the world’s most famous paintings, the Mona Lisa? About 15 seconds. Yes, I know the painting is a lot smaller than you thought it would be and there are 1,000 other people taking pictures but 15 seconds? Go to the MIA and don’t try to see every thing. Concentrate on enjoying fewer works of art at a slower pace. Meditating on the masterpieces of Scripture or the Mass are not boring in themselves! It’s just that our attention spans are so short and we do not delve into them with suitable depth. Slow Nature: A brother priest once told me that Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that that we ought to “adopt the pace of nature.” It takes a while for flowers to grow and for wheat to be ripened for harvest. Nature is reality as it is without man embellishing it or making it better somehow. Enjoy what is already there—trying not adding music of media or superficial conversation, but just be effortlessly affected by reality.
Watch the movie:
“Into Great Silence” which evokes a powerful re- sponse of impatience in the viewer.
I guarantee you that these human skills will help prepare you to be effective receivers of the Gift of God’s Grace. Prayer and spiritual direction are truly slow activities! Sometimes agonizingly slow for me and for many. But practicing, noticing, and staying with and receiving, and gazing are all essential skills for detecting God’s presence and action in your life. These skills will greatly help make your prayer much more interactive and attentive to the voice of the Lord when he speaks in your life. I can still hear echoing in my soul my professor for my Spiritual Direction post-Practicum class at Creighton saying in her fine Jersey accent, “Slow!” Prayer is less about productivity as it is about receptivity -active receptivity-to the Grace of God, in whatever form it takes, to encourage us and strengthen us in our spiritual journey.
Fr Rolf Tollefson